“I am able to tell my story. That is a huge accomplishment.”
The Journey: Bobbi’s Saga
The word “saga” describes a narrative, telling the adventures of a hero or heroic achievement. The story of Bobbi’s life and her responses to the harrowing challenges she faced from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse beginning at the age of four years old shows her heroism and belief in her journey.
“I want to be at peace in a burning house.”
-Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator
“Live the life you want, not the life you live.”
Dr. Micheal Kane Psy.D. Clinical Traumatologist & Forensic Evaluator
My Dear Readers,
It has been six months since the last blog posting. The year 2017 in the work of clinical traumatology has proven be a very trying and difficult journey. As we begin this new year, I want to reintroduce Bobbi’s Saga, continuing her story as she walks her journey of self-discovery.
For those of you who are not familiar with Bobbi, she is my hero. A 60-year-old African-American woman with Deep South roots who was born and raised in Seattle, she sought psychotherapy six years ago to heal the pain she has endured as a survivor of sexual abuse endured in her childhood and preadolescence.
One may ask the following:
- What is so important about reliving such a horrific story?
- Why not just let it go? Or,
- It’s history, so just move on….
Bobbi’s Saga is important. It is a story of horrors that must be told and therefore never forgotten. It is the story of survival of a four-year-old child and the self-sacrifice of a grown woman. It is a story of innocence lost and betrayal by adults who were trusted with the welfare of the weak and powerless. Finally, it is a story of courage, empowerment, and the search for self-discovery.
Bobbi’s hellish nightmare of sexual abuse ended when her mother put her out of her house and into the streets, where she spent the next six years in the state foster care system, seen as a “bad girl” by members of her community. Today, Bobbi is moving towards her silver years, which has included a 30-year plus marriage, three children and a successful career in the corporate world. Once rejected by her community, she is now the picture of success.
Behind closed doors, however, Bobbi remains not being understood by others, emotionally distant from her spouse and pampered, privileged children who do not understand what Bobbi has sacrificed to give them the life they have and insulate them from the abuses she suffered.
We continue with Bobbi’s Saga in her own words…
The Lack of Understanding by Others
I had a session with Dr. Kane today. I feel we are talking about more uncovered things about my past. I told him about my family not understanding why I continue to want to attend therapy. My children wonder why I still go after 50 years of no therapy.
I have explained to my husband that I have had a lot of trauma I don’t think he understands. He sees me journaling and yet has never asked anything about it. All of this leaves me feeling alone, isolated, and questioning myself at times.
I question so many things. I feel unsure of myself. I am unsure of past feelings, behaviors, fears, shame, and guilt. My mother made me feel guilty and ashamed of the way I looked and the darkness of my skin.
When I told her what her husband had been doing to me, she kicked me out of the house, calling me a whore and saying that I would was going to be a prostitute. That hurt me terribly then and still does to this very day.
Dr. Kane and I talked about shame, guilt and hope today. I asked Dr. Kane what I should do when the shame, guilt and pain becomes heavy, almost unbearable. He suggested going to a place in the house or inside of my psychological self where I feel safe.
Although I do that, there are times when the weight of it all feels so heavy. It is like a cloak of darkness over my head. A cloak that the sun can’t penetrate; warmth can’t penetrate. Love and joy can’t get through. Guilt, shame and pain get caught under the cloak and can never leave.
Shame: The Reflection in the Mirror
One of my greatest shames is the size of my breasts. I have always wanted my breasts reduced. I think about my abuse every time I look at my breasts. My stepfather used to purposely rub them; saying massaging them will make them grow bigger.
Why can’t I believe that he wasn’t the reason for my breast size? I now know the truth, but my body and heart don’t feel that way. For fifty years, I believed my breasts were growing because I was molested by my stepfather. It was painful when Dr. Kane told me the truth three years ago. I wonder what my life would have been like if I didn’t hold on to this lie every day.
I have been thinking a lot about the rapes. I keep thinking these were my fault. I have been scared since the first rape. I know a child or youth can’t fight off a man weighing 200 pounds. Why can’t I comprehend that?
The Disconnect: Knowing & Feeling
There is this disconnect that is so wide, regarding what I know and what I feel. I am trying to tell myself over and over that it wasn’t my fault. No one ever told me that until Dr. Kane did.
My mother never told me that; instead she blamed me. The staff at the Youth Center never told me that it wasn’t my fault. The nurse I told didn’t tell me it wasn’t my fault. Even the people in my foster homes didn’t say that. Maybe that is why it’s so hard to believe.
Self Sacrifice-Going Up In Flames
I have always wanted to please others. This has carried over into adulthood. Then Dr. Kane taught me about putting the self first. I had never heard that before. I didn’t think it was possible. Do others do that?
I didn’t even know how to say no, I said yes to everything, even if I didn’t want to do it. I went out of my way to do things that please others no matter how I felt. Why did I want to please others? Could it be because of the rapes?
I seem to be making progress. I now think of myself first. Now when I don’t want to do something I simply say no. It’s not even difficult to say no. This is after six years of therapy.
Missing Hope & Replacing Hope with Fear
The preacher’s sermon was about hope today. There was a time in which I was missing hope. When I would have thoughts or flashbacks about the rapes, I would feel sad, defeated, and suicidal. I was totally overwhelmed and not knowing if I could continue to live with the guilt and shame.
The guilt and shame has lessened, but I am still bothered by it. I tell myself that I am safe and no one can hurt me, but I continue to feel the fear of the four year old that has had hope taken away from her.
I feel the fear of my two-year-old brother crying, locked in the bathroom. I feel the fear of the four-year-old whose panties are being roughly taken and little legs forced apart. I recall the fear of the threat of “I will come back and kill your mother and brother if you tell.”
Yes, my hope was replaced with fear, pain and guilt. I am afraid to sleep in the dark, being raped again and not finding out what I need and want in life before I die. Sometimes I am afraid of the flashbacks; they seem like it was yesterday. They cause physical reactions and transform me back to being four years old.
My mother died last year. Even though we didn’t have a good relationship, I hoped that would have changed. I had hoped that she would have apologized and accept responsibility for her actions towards me.
I had hoped to feel loved by her. I know that all of this is unrealistic but hoping for unrealistic things for me isn’t unusual. You always hope for what you don’t have.
It’s Christmas. I am hoping for a lighter year next year.
Concluding Remarks -Dr. Kane
Bobbi’s writings represent an individual who, despite the horrific experiences of sexual assaults, physical violence, betrayal, abandonment and rejection by her family and community, continues along her journey of self-discovery.
Bobbi was victimized. She is no longer a victim. In traveling the journey of self-discovery, she is seeking to empower the psychological self. She is free now to… “Live the life you want, not the life you live.”
To my colleagues, fellow trauma specialists who sit through the many hours of listening to horrendous stories in order to heal and process the pain and suffering of those befallen, I thank you for your empathy, passion for the work we do and commitment to the healing. You are special people. Best wishes to you in the coming year.
Until the next time…Bobbi’s saga continues…